The Festival of Bands returned to Battle Ground Public Schools in an in-person format on March 3 for the first time in two years.
Ryan Messling, the director for Prairie High School’s music program, said he was happy with the performance of his wind ensemble, which includes a good number of juniors and seniors.
“They’ve been playing together for quite some time and developed a really good sound,” said Messling. “It was really shown at the festival, which was nice. They did a really great job.”
He said the band received “great responses” from the adjudicators and were also given feedback from other students at the event, which was hosted at Prairie High School. Composed of wind instruments like the tuba and flute, the band played “Joy” by Joseph Curiale, “Lauda” by Timothy Miles, and “Amparito Roca” by Jaime Texidor.
Messling said the festival is not competitive. He instead called it a “collaborative effort” between the district’s schools, as bands from every school in the district participate.
“As a host, I do a lot of the stuff on the day of the event, and I do a lot of the planning, but we have a lot of other band directors in the district like Alison Pierce from Tukes Valley who helped a tremendous amount with correspondence from the district office,” he said. “We have (band director) Jeremy Gallagher who also helped with moving equipment and setting that up with facility use. There’s a lot of hands on deck, which is very helpful for the event.”
After a band performed at the festival, Messling said adjudicators — who are local professional musicians — provided feedback and tips to the students.
The adjudicator who evaluated Prairie’s wind ensemble told Messling the performance was the best he’s heard from the band, which is something Messling was happy to hear.
The adjudicator, who Messling did not name, advised the band to loosen up and be less rigid, but otherwise provided positive feedback.
Danielle Armstrong, who directed the eighth grade concert band at Chief Umtuch Middle School, was also excited about the performance of her students.
“It was so good to get back together and perform in a setting that felt kind of normal,” said Armstrong.
Her band undertakes traditional classical concert music as they use instruments like trumpets, trombones, clarinets, saxophones and flutes.
The band’s adjudicator, Chuck Bolton, provided helpful feedback, Armstrong said. He advised the band to adjust their phrasing and noted they should change the way they articulate their notes.
The band played the pieces “Encanto,” “A Hymn for Band” and “Arabian Dances,” which were classical pieces composed by professional musicians in the concert band industry.
Armstrong said her band was nervous to perform at Prairie High School because it was unfamiliar territory to them. She noted they hadn’t done a lot of performances up to that point, but said her students enjoyed the festival and felt good about the feedback they received.
Armstrong directs a concert band for each grade level at Chief Umtuch Middle School and is also involved with the beginning jazz band and the marching band.
The Festival of Bands is an important opportunity for the students, Armstrong said, because they get to hear other musicians perform and they receive feedback from people other than herself.
“They also hear new suggestions for improving their music that maybe we haven’t talked about in the classroom, so it’s great for them for personal improvement and also group improvement,” Armstrong explained.
The band previously played over Zoom, which Armstrong said was difficult. She is working to make up for a year’s loss of in-person work.
“We didn’t have that group connectivity we usually have when we’re rehearsing together so we’re spending a lot of time retraining how we listen to one another and how we fit our music together,” Armstrong said. “My goal is for each of the groups to be caught up to where they should be by the end of this year. They’ve all made really great strides in their musicianship.”
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